Not the Chilcot Report 140

Peter Oborne is everything Chilcot will not be: concise, honed, forensic and devastatingly logical. Oborne’s Not the Chilcot Report is the most important book that will be published this year. I strongly urge you to read it. Anyone who doubts the continued relevance of what Tony Blair did then, to Britain today will be left in no doubt of the poison still pumping around not just the British political system but the entire Middle East.

Oborne’s book is a tremendous example of how much information can be made digestible in a short space by excellent writing. Oborne presents the clearest of accounts of the history of the Iraqi weapons programmes and the very clear knowledge that Britain and the international community had of them.

Where Oborne is at his best is skewering the guilty men by pinpointing the key lies and distortions. In so doing, he is able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the major figures acted dishonestly and with deliberation. Here for example is a phrase from a minute of 15 March 2002 by John Scarlett, then Head of the Joint Intelligence Committee and later Head of MI6, discussing what to release to the public:

“You will still wish to consider whether more impact could be achieved if the paper only covered Iraq. This would have the benefit of obscuring the fact that, in terms of WMD, Iraq is not exceptional.”

Oborne has seized on the phrase that proves that Scarlett was knowingly engaged in deliberately misleading the public, in order to promote an aggressive war. Do not expect anything so acute from Chilcot.

Oborne sets out the unanswerable case that UN Security Council Resolution 1441 could not “revive” the authorisation of military action against Iraq under UN Security Council Resolution 678, as it specifically stated that any further breach of Iraq’s disarmament obligations would “be reported to the Council for assessment”, not trigger military action. That assessment never happened. Oborne also points out the more overlooked argument that 678 itself only authorised military intervention for the purpose of securing Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait anyway, so it could not be “revived” unless Iraq again occupied Kuwait.

Oborne sets out in cogent and consecutive detail how Lord Goldsmith both held and set out this self evident fact, and that this was hidden from the Cabinet. Oborne highlights the evidence from Chilcot that every single one of the Foreign Office’s stellar department of Legal Advisers held this same view, that to invade Iraq would be illegal. And he skewers in every detail Goldsmith’s servile behaviour in flying to Washington to be given, and adopt, the Bush lawyers’ logically impossible position that it was open to any individual UN member to make the unilateral determination of whether Iraq was in material breach of the disarmament obligations.

Nothing here the cognoscenti did not know – but to read it set out so squarely still sends a chill down the spine.

Oborne is perhaps at his strongest on the disastrous consequences of the Iraq War. This is where neo-con revisionists in the mainstream media have worked hardest – the narrative window is that perhaps the war was based on an untruth, but the consequences were good.

Oborne shows that the security services predicted before the war that to invade Iraq would increase the terrorist threat in the UK. He shows conclusively from evidence to Chilcot including from former MI5 head Eliza Manningham Buller that the invasion of Iraq had indeed increased the terrorist threat to the UK and had directly caused the radicalisation of young British muslims with consequences including the 7/7 bombings.

Manningham Buller told Chilcot that it was beyond doubt, and measurable, that the Iraq invasion greatly increased the terrorist threat to the UK, and to counter the arguments of those who deny this – particularly Tony Blair – she pointed out that immediately following the invasion, Blair had agreed to an unprecedented doubling of the budget of MI5 – the domestic security agency.

The consequences of the invasion of Iraq in terms of Middle East instability and lives lost have been incalculable. In simple terms of deaths in Iraq alone, Oborne explains more clearly than I had ever seen that Iraq Body Count only includes fatalities confirmed in two separate English language sources, and therefore this is a major underestimate. 1 million dead is probably a more realistic estimate.

As battle rages around Fallujah for at least the fifth time since the invasion, as the population still starved of work, electricity, education, sanitation and health services rises up in Iraq and periodically attacks the luxury enclave of the Green zone, as the Daesh phenomenon looks to transmogrify into its latest manifestation, attempts to distance these consequences from Blair’s destruction of the Iraqi state are pathetic, yet widely disseminated in mainstream media. Oborne conclusively yet concisely explains why this propaganda is wrong.

The one area where I think he Oborne a little too kind is in his description of Chilcot and his team. Oborne rightly explains no great expectations of the Chilcot report should be held. He has told me privately that he expects that Chilcot will seek to “spread the blame widely and thinly”, rather than hone in on Blair and the really guilty parties. This is my information also; from the criticisms individuals have seen in the “Maxwellisation” process I learn a lot of the blame is to be shifted to the military.

But I don’t think Oborne really nails it on the extent to which Chilcot is a pre-arranged whitewash job. Chilcot was himself a member of the Butler Inquiry, an earlier whitewash covering much the same ground. Oborne points out the interesting fact that now Lord Butler is a free agent in the House of Lords, he has much more squarely accused Blair than anything he said in his report. But Oborne has only gently referred to the point that the Inquiry members were almost all very active cheerleaders for the Iraq War. Only one, Baroness Prashar, is arguably neutral. Not one of the numerous distinguished former Ambassadors, Generals or academics who opposed the war was selected.

The Chilcot Inquiry is a put-up whitewash with membership personally approved by Gordon Brown. It will not be worth reading. This short book by Oborne tells you everything you need to know. Read it instead.

Here is an excerpt from Oborne’s conclusion:

“In the decade after 9/11 the United States spent more than $3 trillion and squandered the lives of 7,000 American and allied soldiers. The consequence of these wars has been the destabilisation of Iraq, the emergence of Islamic States, and a failed state in Afghanistan. Meanwhile the reputation of America and its Western allies has been gravely damaged by the rendition, torture and detention without trial of terror suspects, and other cases of western brutality, such as Abu Ghraib.

…trust in the state was shattered by the Iraq War, and its gruesome aftermath. We have learnt that civil servants, spies, and politicians could not be trusted to act with integrity and decency and in the national interest. This discovery was shattering because it calls into question the moral basis on which Britain has been governed for the last hundred years or more.”

The truth is, these consequences were not unforeseeable. Indeed as Oborne notes on 14 February 2003 Dominique De Villepin, French Foreign Minister, had predicted to the Security Council exactly what the consequences would be:

“…the use of force is not justified at this time. There is an alternative to war; disarming Iraq through inspections.

Moreover, premature recourse to the military option would be fraught with risks… Such intervention could have incalculable consequences for a scarred and ravaged region. It would compound the sense of injustice, would aggravate tensions and would risk paving the way for other conflicts.”

It was an aggressive war on the basis of lies, for which people still die today, all over the world.

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140 thoughts on “Not the Chilcot Report

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  • anti-hypocrite

    Justice will only have been done and seen to have been done when Tony Blair and Jack Straw are jailed for life, meaning life, for crimes against humanity.

    And long before they are ninety years old.

  • John Goss

    Peter Oborne is one of the sound reporters of the old school to whom priniciples outweigh pay-cheques. I knew about his book and thank Ba’al for the link on the first comment on the previous page.

    Excellent review Craig. Really makes me want to buy it.

  • Shaddycack

    Craig, your comment on Iraq Body Count made me wonder if you have come across Media Lens’s alerts on the difference between the IBC and Lancet estimates (and how the corporate media were almost religious in citing the former and either ignoring or dissing the latter). Interesting stuff.

    • Tony_0pmoc


      Actually, the depth and breadth of all forms of culture in The UK is probably still higher, than anywhere else in the world, particularly in terms of the distance needed to see whatever you are interested in. A French friend returned for a short visit after 10 years giving us half an hour’s notice on a Friday. He and his wife (who spoke hardly any English) were amazed at the live entertainment at two different venues within a few miles of where we live on a Friday from 8pm to 1:00am. There are few places in the world where you will find such a concentration and diversity of cultures.

      If I was isolated from all forms of news including the internet and mobiles and only experienced my world through real human contact, I would have very little to complain about.

      Unfortunately, I can see where we are heading, and it does not look good particularly for my children and grandchild. If I was 25, I would seriously consider moving to Christchurch in New Zealand.

      I am now 75% convinced the the Referendum will be fixed, and that there is nothing anyone can do about it, particularly if there is no truly independent exit poll.


  • glenn_uk

    The truth is, these consequences were not unforeseeable.

    Indeed not. I distinctly remember Kenneth Clarke warning on the floor of the Commons, while opposing the rush to war, that – I may be paraphrasing – “When, not if, bombs start going off in London” it will be a consequence of the decision to wage a war of aggression for no good reason.

    That prediction never got much play, for some reason.

    There was also the promise of “no automaticity” if 1441 was approved

    This was from the UK ambassador:

    We heard loud and clear during the negotiations the concerns about “automaticity” and “hidden triggers” – the concern that on a decision so crucial we should not rush into military action; that on a decision so crucial any Iraqi violations should be discussed by the Council. Let me be equally clear in response… There is no “automaticity” in this resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion as required in paragraph 12. We would expect the Security Council then to meet its responsibilities

    It was a lie. The decision was already made, and war plans fully advanced, with no withdrawal even considered.

  • J

    General Wesley Clark from 2007. He says he was informed on or around 20th September 2001 that Iraq was to be invaded, then a few weeks later the list grew to include (Afghanistan, Iraq) Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. The shape of the last fifteen years spanning four US administrations was decided within weeks of 9/11:

    • nevermind

      Thanks J., thjis man has featured here in discussion more than once and you are right, these wars are all to control resources/pipelines in the middle east for the gas guzzlers of the world, for whence they fracked the hell out of the US. One wonders what fracking would/will do to the the integrity of Yellowstone’s caldera if its carried out anywhere near it.

  • lwtc247

    Re: Oborne (& others) saying things like “trust in the state was shattered by the Iraq War”.
    The British state has for many hundreds of years been a state of great filth in terms of its foreign policy. The quoted statement simply shows that people like Oborne simply never bothered to look at the UK objectively, instead letting a nationalistic bias override any sense of truth or honesty. But better late than never I guess, but Pilger has written in the UK lies and depravity when it comes to Iraq in particular and knocks the socks off anything Oborne (who really is still in love with the British establishment. I suspect that is why you like Oborne so much Craig, neither of you can just let go.

    • Shatnersrug

      Peter O is an excellent conservative journalist, but like most decent conservatives, his comfortable upbringing and education have blinded him to the truth that his country is not what it would have us believe. The conservative inability to accept the nasty truths is what makes them easily manipulated.

      I think the last 8 years have been eye opening for Oborne, and he’s a more decent man because of it but I think I speak for many of us when I say “Peter!! What took you so long?!”

      • lwtc247

        Nicely put.
        I do feel that Oborne thinks that things are just slightly awry. – ‘lost focus’, rather than inherently corrupt. An epiphany hasn’t yet come to him, one has to wonder it it ever will. Dear Craig is quite similar.
        Look at it like this. How on earth could a system that was built for good (go with me here) could ever have facilitated such a monstrous thing as the Iraq war, /and then, after that/ allow Libya and Syria, with numerous other rumblings in the distance. The British establishment is built on what seems like sheer contempt for those that it can’t bring to bear or be manipulated as “partners”. It’s core is war and dominance. It is astounding* that a this little nation of 60m shopkeepers isn’t booted off the UNSC, to make way for Brasil, Pakistan, Indonesia, Japan.

  • bevin

    I was surprised to find this excellent article, from Le Monde Diplomatique’s Jean Bricmont in today’s CounterPunch.
    It is one that everyone ought to read. He makes the point, which has been increasingly clear in recent years, that it is the “left” which is the big problem in today’s politics, because it is just as highly committed to elitism and guided democracy as is the right.
    There is something obscene in the current spectacle in which all parties are dropping the pretence that there are real differences between them and uniting behind the EU project.
    It is a most curious thing that the SNP, allegedly interested in breaking up the current UK, stands shoulder to shoulder with the Unionists, on the basis that it has a common cause in wishing to prserve the EU. Clearly, if the British vote were to go against the EU, all bets would be off and the SNP would have a perfect opportunity to push hard for Scots independence. (Parnell would have realised this.)

  • Fly on the wall

    As a labour supporter I was planning to vote with my leader, but if soros (the devil who increased the UK debt by a billion pounds with his sure bet relying on a relative inside John Majors cabinet) wants us to stay in, I am now voting out. Besides I dont want to be found in the same company as Anon1 !! But following the bookies (they have their relatives in the MI5) its going to be a rigged IN vote anyways, all van drivers transporting stuffed ballots have been asked to be doubly careful this time.

    • laguerre

      It seems remarkably poorly thought out to vote In or Out based on the opinions of one person, whatever you think of Soros, with which I wouldn’t disagree.

  • fwl

    Has the BBC got around to running a story on the Queen asking guests for 3 reasons why we should remain?

  • fwl

    I’m not up on SNP internal politics, but find it odd that not one is voting out: are they whipped to remain? Is plurality of views and / or loyal dissent not tolerated within the SNP?

  • fwl

    I don’t like to identify with a position as you begin to catch sight of how entrenched a position your taking. I thought I’d try and adopt a remain position today and try and see things from that perspective, not just objectively but emotionally as well. But I’ve got off to a bad start. It’s half six and my thoughts and feelings are saying out.

  • Nita Nicholson

    these disastrous repercussions were knowable at the time. The rational arguments of those who understood the nature of Iraqi society were censored in the US. They chose not to listen to the experts in the field. The voices of sane people were shut out to make way for a madness, the winners being those who benefit from conflict and destruction, as always. They were standing ready, waiting in the wings.

      • Ba'al Zevul

        It’s what global entrepreneurs do, Michael. There are those even in the UK (briefly, between soliciting trade with repressive dictatorships) who feel that trading with bastards will make them into cuddly bunnies.

    • Ba'al Zevul

      The only way of preventing the same happening again would seem to be this (in UK terms-same principle for the US):

      1. The PM, after a boozy meeting with his spin doctors, lackeys, arselickers and yes-men, announces that he is going to invade Elbonia.

      2. Hearing this on the hidden mikes, the FCO sends in a heavily-armed snatch squad, picked for its blind obedience to orders. This transports the PM to a safe house on a Hebridean island, where –

      3. Using electric shocks, rubber hose and waterboarding if necessary, the PM is given an eight week (notional figure) course on the religious, political, physical and administrative factors involved, from the perspectives not only of the UK, but of Elbonia itself and the global community. Additionally, he will be subjected to a live-fire exercise with inadequate kit, prior to discussions with the military as to the cost of equipment. He is not released until he can pass a written examination, set by leading academics and including special reference to the post-invasion scenario (say two essays, 6 hours, 33% of the marks).

      4. His spindoctors etc are shot in the neck and buried in unmarked graves. He will then be free to make an informed decision, presenting the actual facts of the matter to Parliament in accordance with our fine democratic tradition, and voted upon.

      It might not prevent a war, even so, but at least it would ensure that one government front-bencher had some slight idea of what the fuck was being proposed. And that’s a start.

  • afrend

    …trust in the state was shattered by the Iraq War, and its gruesome aftermath. We have learnt that civil servants, spies, and politicians could not be trusted to act with integrity and decency and in the national interest.

    Too funny. Old patriarchs, ex-defenders of the war machine, now expect people to take them seriously just because they have seen the error of their ways.

    • Ba'al Zevul

      Journalists might start by declining to print government and commercial press releases verbatim. But the business model of most proprietors – answerable to the same commercial forces that direct governments – would never permit the expenditure of time and money to conduct genuine research, let alone risk the loss of advertisers and famous people to supply op-eds.

      The first, and essential, move in securing public acquiescence in war is to dehumanise and demonise the enemy. And it’s routine to sideline dissenting peace- journalists.

      The days when journalists learned their trade on the job from experienced and nosey seniors are gone. Journalists nowadays are employed on the basis of courses taught by marketing specialists, and their further careers depend on how accurately they can reflect the wishes of their proprietors while never actually being told the line to follow – the myth of editorial independence. Oborne left the Telegraph on this being brought home to him: however, he’d already made himself a saleable brand by echoing the establishment view (and being exceptionally readable), and this would be a hard course to navigate for a previously-unknown peace journalist.

  • Mark Golding

    A group of +16 yrs students pointed out the annoying Google search notice:

    Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe. Try searching { “goyim news” jo cox }

    This is the result of an EU ruling:

    Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU):

    This has a profound effect on search engine services and such legislation will further curtail knowledge gathering and compiling by future generations – in fact MI5 research and scrub the WWW using this piece of EU ruling by labeling query results as inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant, excessive or not in the national interest.

    • John Goss

      Unfortunately it is not just Google but all western search engines. It is very difficult now to get anything, even the most innocuous link that does not push the establishment line in a general search. Similarly Facebook intervenes and removes comments. I tried to raise interest in a petition in support of honest Russian athletes competing in the Rio Olympics. I sent private messages to people I felt sure would help in putting a campaign together. These messages vanished into the ether. Likewise comments on a Russia Today sports page. I sent an email to Russia Today explaining what happened to my ‘disappeared’ comments. I am still awaiting a response.

      Some people will never have experienced this kind of thing and my suspicion is that individuals and their computers can be manipulated to suit the powers that be especially for those of us who research but do not share the mainstream line of lies.

      • flux_capacitor

        StartPage is quite good. It uses Google, but searches are anonymised. There is also a sister site, IXQuick which uses different search engines.

  • Dave

    Blair was easily played by the US due to his chronic inferiority complex and desperation for money to obviate this feeling and give him the status he craves, but chasing the money has had the opposite to the intended effect, unless being held in the highest contempt, counts!

    The question is, instead of the self-serving lies, had he shown strength of character, leadership, and opposed the destruction of Iraq, would it have happened, because the US/neo-con agenda relies on a false narrative and allies to back the cover story!

    Perhaps he had no choice, but presumably he did because France was publicly opposed, so I do wonder because when Cameron lost the vote in Parliament to bomb Assad, Obama halted his plans too, until a new line/lie was agreed to bomb the US/neo-con franchise ISIS as a cover for bombing Assad.

  • Bill Kruse

    Disarming Iraq wouldn’t have stopped Hussein from selling his oil for euros and undermining the petrodollar, which is presumably why that course wasn’t followed.

  • Max Harrison

    I’m willing to bet Straw, D Miliband, Hoon and Blair will largely escape criticism. And if they’re criticised, so what? Nothing will change. We need to thrust change upon them.

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